Mr. Murder Is Dead – Graphic Novel Review
By Rob Siebert
Editor, Fanboy Wonder
The big thing that may draw people to Mr. Murder is Dead is the fact that Zachary Quinto, a.k.a. Sylar on Heroes and Spock in the new Star Trek movie, serves as an “executive editor” on the project. Nothing against Quinto, but in a way that’s a shame. This book deserves credit for its overall quality, not the involvement of an actor.
Mr. Murder is Dead is Victor Quinaz and Brent Schoonover’s love letter to detective/noir comics from various eras. We see throwbacks to the ’30s, the ’50s and the ’70s. But we spend most of our time in the modern era, with our retired supercop The Spook, whose real name is Gould Kane (a tribute to Dick Tracy creator Chester Gould and Batman creator Bob Kane). Mr. Murder, Kane’s old arch enemy has been…well, murdered. But little does Kane know that Murder had one last scheme in mind for him before he died. It will dig up faces from their past, and in the end, rock our hero to his very core.
The first thing that came to mind when I saw this book was: “Wow, that looks like a Darwyn Cooke book.” In all fairness, that’s not entirely true. But Schoonover’s art during the modern era scenes is slightly reminiscent of Cooke’s, particularly his work on Slam Bradley during his Catwoman run with Ed Brubaker. Still, he deserves a LOT of credit for being able to differentiate between the different eras as well as he does, along with colorist Mark Englert. There are so many little intricacies that come with trying to make the art look like it’s actually from those time periods, and they pull it off very, very well.
One thing they also pull off in a rather unsettling way? Old man nudity. For whatever reason, we see Gould Kane naked two or three times. No full frontal, thankfully. But sheesh.
As you might expect with the backstory of our main character’s name, this entire world is very much Dick Tracy with a shot of Batman. The villains are pretty gimmicky. Aside from Mr. Murder, we meet Bulldog McGraw, Timmy Tough, Book Smart and Billy The Kidd (who’s undergone a MAJOR change since the old days). The inside covers are also decorated like some kind of demented class photo with a bunch of villains that we never see (Tom A. Hawk, The French Tickler, Man-Hands, Hal I. Tosis, etc.). It’s all pretty fun.
The biggest flaw I can find in this book is the ending. There’s one character who is fairly obviously involved in the big scheme, and when the big reveal comes, you’re not surprised. Still, it’s done well, and there’s an extra little twist during the epilogue that gives it a nice kick.
Overall, Mr. Murder Is Dead is a real treat for comic book fans, particularly those who are into this particular genre. If you saw the movie Red (the movie with Bruce Willis, NOT the comic book), it has a similar appeal. Older characters getting back in the game after they’ve been out for awhile, and through their adventures in the present, we learn about their past. Quinaz, Schoonover, and the entire creative team deserve praise for it.
Pages from final-girl.tumbler.com and bleedingcool.com.